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Sunday roast foods ranked in order of necessity

David Clack

’Tis the season to tuck into massive hunks of meat and guzzle all the gravy. But which Sunday roast components are essential, and which can be left on the supermarket shelf? You’re literally seconds away from finding out.

The meat

This is the centrepiece of your roast, and the type of flesh you opt for (even if it’s not flesh at all) will dictate the nature of everything around it. Having beef? You’ll want a giant Yorkshire pudding, a good dollop of creamed horseradish and a massive glass of shiraz. Having a nut roast? Steamed broccoli, new potatoes, and a bloody mary. Do you see? Without meat, there is no roast – just a load of hot carbs covered in gravy, at which point you may as well be in a chip shop in Lancaster.


The benefits of gravy are two-fold. Firstly it keeps everything good and hot, which is great news for anyone who can’t be bothered pre-heating their plates, because how the fuck are you supposed to do that when your oven is full of stuff? Buy a second oven? Secondly, a good gravy (ie. not one that began life in granule form) hides a multitude of roast sins, from under-seasoned veg to slightly dry chicken. Making it yourself also makes you feel like some kind of big-deal chef, like you could genuinely up sticks and open your own nose-to-tail bistro in the South of France, even though you’re literally just pouring wine onto animal fat and onions and then stirring it a bit.

Roast potatoes

Providing you’ve got meat (see item one), gravy (see item two) and some kind of crispy carbs, you’ve got the fundamentals of a roast. The first candidate when you’re considering the latter must of course be the potato, parboiled then swaddled in your favourite fat and then put in a hot place (an oven works well) until they resemble little golden hemispheres studded with herbs. Anyone who claims they don’t like roast potatoes is not to be trusted, unless they offer to put theirs on your plate, in which case, marry them immediately.

Roast carrots

With the basics covered off, we’re into optional extra territory. These pointy fellas beat off competition from parsnips purely on the basis that they’re orange (unless something’s gone really wrong) and therefore add a dash of visual variety to all that beige and brown. Don’t, whatever you do, be tempted to parboil them, but do, for the love of Jesus, cover them in honey and black pepper before you sling them in the oven.

Green veg

Whether you go for broccoli, cabbage, peas or kale (so you can pretend you’re going to use up what’s left in a smoothie), green veg exists purely to add a touch of decorum to an otherwise hedonistic platter of flesh and carbs. Anything in this category is never going to be a star player, but if you were served a roast without them, you’d feel like a total slob, or like that cousin you only see at Christmas who only eats jacket potatoes. At any rate, you can make all of the above tastier simply by covering them in butter and salt, and in doing so completely neutralise any nutritional worth.


Remember the first time you tried a parsnip? How it was sweet and delicious just like a vegetable has absolutely no right to be? It was a revelation, sure, but since then the parsnip’s novelty has sort of worn off, and it all just seems a bit desperate. Still, if Costcutter is out of carrots, totally load up.

Yorkshire pudding

Essential with beef, frankly optional with everything else. These are unique among Sunday roast staples in that they’re definitely not worth making yourself – just sling in a couple of frozen ones just before you serve up and you’re fine. If anyone expresses outrage at this, thank them for the bottle of wine and call them a cab.


Essential with chicken, frankly optional with everything else. In any case, the packet stuff will do because, let’s face it, can you really be arsed forcing an entire loaf of bread into a blender?

Some kind of sauce

A good gravy is all the sauce you need – comforting, functional and reliably delicious. There’s no need to get involved with condiments – it’ll only make everyone you’re eating with suspect that you’re cheating on your partner, or, if you’re single, that you’re a total pervert.

Cauliflower cheese

Cheese, on a Sunday roast? Are you fucking joking? What’s for dessert, apple crumble with sriracha? Get out of my house.

Want to go for a roast in London? Here's our pick of the best roast dinners in London


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